Before & After: A Remodel in Salt Lake City’s Avenues Historic District

By February 24, 2012Projects

: This single-story Victorian cottage is located in the Avenues Historic District, the oldest residential neighborhood in Salt Lake City. It’s a short walk to the Cathedral of the Madeline and downtown area from the home.

Clients: A married professional couple, Adam & Lee, who lived in the house for several years prior to starting their remodeling project.

Background: Because of the home’s location within a local historic district and a previous owner’s detailed listing of modifications over the years, Adam and Lee were able to find out many details about their property.  The home is considered a contributing structure within the neighborhood, and is typical of a pattern book design from the late 1800s with its simple front porch and clipped gables. John Cahoon, one of the first pioneers to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley, was the first owner of this home in 1891.  When Adam and Lee bought the home, they discovered in a drawer a handwritten list of dates and modifications undertaken over the past century. The advent of the automobile led to the addition of a one-car garage in 1916;  a coal furnace was installed in the early 1940s and the notes indicate that the attic bedrooms were added “after fire” in the late 1940s.  While obviously not wanting to restore the home to its original condition, they did want to restore the home to its original simplicity and beauty, making it compatible with the streetscape and pattern of the historic neighborhood.

Challenges: Multiple additions and modifications had altered the original home. Aluminum siding was added in the 1950s along with other non-conforming elements. The home was poorly insulated and had an upper floor area that was uninviting and largely unusable in warm summer months.  Its location within Salt Lake City’s Avenues Historic District required compliance with design guidelines and Historic Landmark Commission approval. A non-conforming side setback also necessitated a separate zoning approval process.

Possibilities & Solutions:  Due to the underlying historic integrity of the  home and the significance of the original owner, the renovation qualified for the Utah Historic Preservation Tax Credit as well as the Utah Heritage Foundation Revolving Fund Loan Program.  A number of measures were taken to restore the character of the original home.

All of the aluminum siding was stripped from the home, revealing original brick construction on parts of the exterior. Previous additions to the house had not been done in brick, so these areas were finished  in wood siding and fiber cement siding. The front porch ironwork was replaced with wood.

The single pane windows from the 1940s on the street face were kept and re-glazed as needed, with the aluminum storm windows removed and replaced with hanging wood sashes for interchangeable screens and glass.  Windows off the street face were replaced with Low-E true divided light wood-clad windows.

A non-historic aluminum awning was replaced with a more historically compatible covered roof.

Over the rear of the house skylights were added to bring light and ventilation to the stairwell and upper floor of the house. Passive ventilation and daylighting were the keys to improving energy efficiency and sustainability for the home.

There’s a persistent myth that paint colors are regulated in local historic districts. They are not. Adam and Lee selected base and trim colors that expressed the different elements of the house. A warmer white color for the brick that had been previously painted, and a warm red hue for the painted wood siding and eave trim highlight the original detail and help distinguish the original brick structure from the added enclosed porch.

End Notes: Adam notes that “complete strangers come up to us as we are working in the yard to tell us how much they like the house…..We are so very pleased with how it came out in both how dramatic the exterior transformation was and how it looks–it is a house that just feels good to come home to.  It has gone from a forgettable house to, in our opinions, the best looking house on the block.”

After photos: Sara Bateman Photography